Why Attachment Matters
“Relationship” is just another way to say “attachment bond.” Every relationship we have is someone that we have “attached” to. Think of it like 2 magnets, they want to be stuck together and the closer they are (physical or emotionally) the stronger that “magnetic pull” feels. Why does this happen? Why is it important?
Attachment comes from generations long, long ago when individuals relied on other individuals for food and shelter. Having others around makes life so much easer to survive. Because of this, human beings developed to be social creatures; we depend on other people for healthy lives and basic sanity.
Strong positive attachment regulates our emotions. As babies when we have kind, attentive caregivers, we develop feelings of safety and trust that help down-regulate our levels of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. When these are lowered our bodies and brains can more easily attune to calmness and pleasant emotions. This process is aided by physical closeness and touch. Hugs and other signs of affection and appreciation calm the nervous system. Additionally, attachment figures help create our environment, and when we feel safe we feel free to explore. If we are always in fight, flight, freeze mode we are unable to learn about our internal wants and desires. A physically and emotionally safe environment regulated by a strong, positive attachment figure allows us space to truly be ourselves. This person (or many people) also teaches us how to feel and regulate our emotions. They model how to deal with unpleasant situations and revel in our joys with us, right by our sides.
All of this safety, nervous system regulation, and personal exploration then translate to how we expect friends and romantic partners to behave. If we grow up with positive, healthy attachment, then we expect similar relationships, as we get older. Attachment also tells us how to treat others: with kindness, with anger, or with anxiety. The better our attachment is with our first caregivers, the better adjusted we are as adults and the healthier our friend and romantic relationships can be. Attachment is everything.
Attachment allows us to be connected to others so that we can face the world. It’s a big, scary place out there when we are all alone, but with family, friends, and partners, we can deal with any unpleasantness that comes our way. Prominent attachment researcher Dr. Sue Johnson sums up, “Dragons faced together are fundamentally different than dragons faced all alone!” (Johnson, 2019, pg 12)
Johnson, S. M. (2019). Attachment theory in practice: Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) with individuals, couples, and families. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.